DENVER (Ticker) -- Chris Drury has a knack of scoring big playoff goals. His latest may have been the biggest.
Drury sparked a four-goal third period as the Colorado Avalanche avoided a monumental collapse with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in the decisive seventh game of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The top-seeded Avalanche advanced to the conference finals for the third straight year but not before they were taken to the limit by the seventh-seeded Kings.
"We understood we had to get the win. We were the No. 1 team in the league and there was no way we were going to go down," said Colorado defenseman Rob Blake, who was acquired from Los Angeles in February. "But you have to give credit to the Kings for what they did. ... This team worked hard all year to get home-ice advantage and there was a reason to go out in Game Seven and put that to use."
Nelson Emerson's goal with 89 seconds left in the second period lifted Los Angeles into a 1-1 tie and silenced the sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center.
But Drury got Colorado back on track 3:03 into the third, scoring his 17th career playoff goal and eighth game-winner.
Rookie Ville Nieminen added a power-play tally and Shjon Podein ended a 14-game postseason scoring drought before Milan Hejduk found an empty net with 3:35 remaining. The Avalanche had lost their previous three Game Sevens while goaltender Patrick Roy had dropped his previous four.
"Today, we played our best game of the series. We were strong right off the bat," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "Our power play came to life tonight. It's easy to throw stones at our players, but you have to give credit to the Kings. You don't beat Detroit and take us to seven games without playing well."
Colorado will host St. Louis on Saturday afternoon in Game One of the conference finals.
The improbable playoff run finally ended for the Kings, who rallied from a two games to none deficit in the first round against Detroit and got back-to-back shutouts from Felix Potvin to force a seventh game against the team with the best record in the regular season.
"Right now, I don't know if it's something to be proud of. It's more disappointing," Los Angeles defenseman Philippe Boucher said. "How many chances do you get to go into the playoffs and have a chance to drink from the Cup? I really believe that we had a chance from day one."
Potvin made early stops on Joe Sakic and Hejduk and extended his shutout streak to 182 minutes, 57 seconds before he was beaten by Blake on the power play with 91 seconds left in the opening period.
Just 49 seconds after Steve Kelly took a cross-checking penalty, Blake got a pass from Ray Bourque and ripped a one-timer from above the left faceoff circle over Potvin's left shoulder. It also ended Colorado's 0-for-13 drought on the power play.
Potvin came up big in the opening minute of the second period, stopping Alex Tanguay and Bourque off an odd-man rush and getting a piece of Sakic's shot from the edge of the slot 2 1/2 minutes later.
The Avalanche seemingly were in control, but Los Angeles tied it on its 13th shot as Emerson leaned into a slap shot above the left circle that just missed Roy's head and found room over the goalie's right shoulder.
Bryan Smolinski nearly put the Kings in front but hit the right post from point-blank range 1.5 seconds before intermission.
"Did we let them in the game, yeah," Smolinski said. "We could have had a 2-1 lead going into the third. I hit the post. Whether that would have changed the course of the game, I think it would have."
That left the door open for Drury, a former Little League World Series hero who played that role again for the Avalanche. With 16:57 remaining, he took a pass from Peter Forsberg and leaned into a wrist shot in the high slot that tipped off defenseman Mattias Norstrom's left glove and darted into the top right corner of the net.
"He plays so deep in his net. He plays as deep an angle that I have ever shot in my life," Drury said of Potvin. "We definitely made a conscious effort to get it up and get it high. Mine was tipped and I think Nieminen was, too."
Los Angeles defenseman Mathieu Schneider was penalized for tripping 2:43 later and Nieminen scored Colorado's second power-play goal of the game with 13:38 remaining. With the Kings slow to complete a line change, the 24-year-old Finn fired a blast from the top of the left circle that glanced off the crossbar and into the net.
"The last few games, we created some (chances) but not enough. I think tonight we made some adjustments to allow us to really penetrate with a lot of speed," Bourque said. "The power play scored a couple of big goals."
Podein got his first goal since Game Three of last year's conference finals less than five minutes later, lifting a shot from above the crease over a sprawled Potvin after Eric Messier outworked Schneider behind the net.
The Kings pulled Potvin for an extra attacker with just under six minutes to go, but Hejduk scored his third goal of the series into the empty net to settle things.
Acquired from Vancouver for future considerations just before the Kings traded Blake to Colorado in February, Potvin turned aside 31 shots but failed in a bid to lead Los Angeles abck to the conference finals for the first time since 1993.
"They have a very good hockey team, but let's face it, we let Felix kind of hang out to dry," Smolinski said. "They got some unforeseen bounces that came off his stick."
The Kings also were trying to become the 17th team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing three games to one.
"We gave a heck of a run," said Los Angeles left wing Luc Robitaille. "It was one of those games where getting a lead was definitely big, and they did and we didn't. Then they just sat back and waited. They got their breaks -- 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s."
Roy stopped 25 shots and extended his own NHL record with his 129 playoff win.